DGA winner will become Oscars frontrunner for Best Director

On Wednesday (January 11), the Directors Guild of America will announce the nominees for the 75th annual edition of the DGA Awards. The DGA is aces at forecasting the eventual Oscar winner. Since the guild aligned itself with the academy calendar in 1950, 64 DGA champs have gone on to win at the Academy Awards as well; the most recent of the eight misses came in 2020 when Sam Mendes (“1917) won with the guild but Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) took home the Oscar.

But be warned: the Directors Guild of America does less well predicting the eventual five Academy Awards nominees. There are usually one or two differences between the slate selected by the 16,000 plus members of the DGA, which includes helmers of TV fares and commercials, and the choices of the 550+ members of the directors branch of the academy.

For the first 15 years of the DGA Awards, there were anywhere from four to 18 nominees. From 1963 – 1965, the DGA went with five before increasing to 10 for the rest of the decade. Finally, beginning in 1970 the guild enshrined the number of nominees as five. And since then, there have only been five years where it previewed the exact lineup of Oscar contenders.

Last year, the DGA previewed four of the eventual five Oscar nominees: double winner Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) plus Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) and Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”). DGA nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) was snubbed by the academy in favor of Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”).

Likewise in 2022: Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) plus Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”). DGA nominee David Fincher (“Mank”) was replaced at the Oscars by Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”).

In 202o, the five contenders were: Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), Sam Mendes (“1917”), Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”). The latter was bumped from the Oscar line-up by Todd Phillips (“Joker”).

In 2019, Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) won over the guild before doing the same with the academy. At the DGA, he faced off against Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”), Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”), Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Adam McKay (“Vice”). Cooper and Farrelly were snubbed by the directors branch of the academy in favor of Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and Paweł Pawlikowski (“Cold War”).

In 2018, Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) picked up the DGA prize before prevailing at the Oscars. At both ceremonies he faced off against Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”). The fifth DGA nominee was , Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) while Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”) reaped an Oscar bid.

In 2017, Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) won both awards. At the DGA he faced off against three of his Oscar rivals — Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), Kenneth Longergan (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) — as well as Garth Davis (“Lion”). The latter was bumped out of the Oscars by Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”).

In 2016, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”) made DGA history by becoming the first back-to-back winner. He prevailed at the guild over Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) and Ridley Scott (“The Martian”). He went on to win the Oscar over McCarthy, McKay, Miller and Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”) who bumped out Scott.

In 2015,  Inarritu (“Birdman”) had edged out Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”), Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) for the DGA win. He then prevailed at the Oscars against Anderson, Linklater, Tyldum and Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”).

In 2014, Cuaron (“Gravity”) won this award over Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), David O. Russell (“American Hustle”) and Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street”). He repeated at the Oscars against McQueen, Russell, Scorsese and Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”).

Back in 2013, only two of the Directors Guild of America nominees —  Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) — also reaped Oscar bids. The other three DGA nominees — Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) — were snubbed by the Oscars in favor of Michael Haneke (“Amour”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild).  Lee won the Oscar race.

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That disconnect between the DGA and Oscars was unprecedented. Affleck won over the DGA voters while his film, “Argo,” became the third to take Best Picture at the Oscars without a corresponding Best Director nomination. The others: “Grand Hotel” (1931/32) and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).

Affleck was the seventh DGA champ who did not go on to repeat at the Academy Awards, following in the path of these Oscar also-rans:

1969: DGA to Anthony Harvey (“The Lion in Winter”), Oscar to Carol Reed (“Oliver!”);

1973: DGA to Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), Oscar to Bob Fosse (“Cabaret”);

1986: DGA to Steven Spielberg (“The Color Purple”), Oscar to Sydney Pollack (“Out of Africa”);

1996: DGA to Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”), Oscar to Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”);

2001: DGA to Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Oscar to Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”); and

2003: DGA to Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), Oscar to Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”)

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